The US artist Patti Smith holds back during her visit to Germany, two days after the start of the war. “No War,” she said at her sold-out performance in Kassel and then sang her ballad “Peacable Kingdom.” This is reported by the local newspaper.

Smith has been clear in the past when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 2021, she and 600 other artists signed a call to boycott Israel and not give concerts. “As musicians, we cannot remain silent,” it says.

On the international stage, artists are currently expressing very different opinions about the war in the Middle East. Among those who show solidarity with the Israeli civilian population affected by the terrorist attacks and condemn the anti-Semitic incitement in the Middle East, there are voices that trivialize the attacks or use a wrong tone. These voices are rarer in the German cultural scene.

The rapper Nura was one of the first. In an Insta story on Sunday evening, she posted an excerpt from her new video in which she posed with other people in front of a basketball hoop with “Free Palestine” written on it. Users called on ProSieben on X (formerly Twitter) to uninvite Nura. The station has probably complied with this: Nura did not appear on “Late Night Berlin” on Tuesday evening – as originally planned.

Nura apologized for the post. In her Insta story she published a text in which she emphasized that she makes no distinction between people, what gender, origin, sexuality or religion they have. “Suffering is suffering.”

Journalist and TV presenter Malcolm Ohanwe, who worked regularly for public broadcaster, came under fire for a comment on X that was interpreted as an endorsement of Hamas. “If the Palestinians’ tongues are systematically cut off, how can they defend themselves with words?” he wrote, among other things. As a result, Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) and the broadcaster Arte have distanced themselves from Ohanwe.

Ohanwe writes to the star that it pains him that he has not made it clear that he does not support terrorism and “rejects Hamas with everything I stand for.” A breeding ground for the current violence is also “the occupation policy against the Palestinians that violates human rights, something that human rights organizations such as Amnesty International also subscribe to.”

Two already controversial Documenta curators also came under criticism. Reza Afisina and Iswanto Hartono from the curator collective ruangrupa liked an Instagram video on Saturday in which people in Berlin cheered the war. They chant “viva Palestine” and “Palestine will be free.”

Documenta managing director Andreas Hoffmann distanced himself from Afisina and Hartono on Monday. This is “unbearable and unacceptable.” The ruangrupa collective was already criticized during Documenta because they had selected an anti-Semitic work of art by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi. When asked by the “Hessische Allgemeine” the two curators apologized. The likes were a mistake, violence against innocent people was “brutal and incredibly bad.”

Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir, who also exhibits in Germany, reportedly commented on her Instagram account Saturday as Hamas abducted an Israeli civilian: “This captured settler looks happy” and “I hope they give her some peace good Palestinian dish to eat.” The Berlin-based Palestinian artist Jumana Manna is said to have commented under images of fleeing civilians at a festival: “It’s no fun to rave near the largest prison in the world.” That’s what the world reports.

Positions on the conflict over Israel and Palestine are always controversial in the German cultural scene. It was only in March that the Hessian state government and the city council of Frankfurt tried to prevent a concert by Roger Waters. Waters is a former member of Pink Floyd. He had repeatedly made anti-Israel statements and supported the anti-Semitic Israel boycott movement BDS.

The BDS movement is a global campaign calling for a boycott to change Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinians. The movement, founded in 2005, is particularly controversial in Germany. Since the end of the 2010s, it has become an increasingly common topic among German artists and intellectuals. The movement does not have as prominent supporters in this country as it does in the USA. But there are always controversies when foreign artists are invited to German stages and festivals.

In 2019, New York rapper Talib Kweli was disinvited from the Düsseldorf Open Source Festival after he reiterated his ties to the BDS organization on Facebook. Intellectuals subsequently accused Germany of fostering a trend toward anti-Palestinian censorship and suppressing free speech. 103 artists, including Peter Gabriel and Naomi Klein, signed an open letter to this effect.

The year before, the band Young Fathers had been invited back and forth from the Ruhrtriennale cultural festival. A few weeks after the scandal, the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament declared across all factions that it would condemn the BDS campaign and not support any of its events. The Bundestag followed suit.

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth responded to a small question last year: “The security of Israel and the rejection of any form of anti-Semitism are part of the reason of state of the Federal Republic of Germany.” This also applies to the financing of culture.